Who Are the Navajo Kentuckians, and Why Should We Care?

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I first met Brent Peters, English teacher from Fern Creek Traditional High School in Kentucky, when he was pursuing a Master’s degree at The Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont, and I knew at first glance that I was talking to someone very special. As I got to know him better, I learned about the food literacy initiative Brent and colleague Joe Franzen were undertaking at their school. As Brent put it in an essay for the Bread Loaf Teacher Network Journal:

The Fern Creek Food Literacy program has grown exponentially. Most compelling to me is the partnership formed between the Fern Creek group and Rex Lee Jim, former Vice President of the Navajo Nation, Evelyn Begody, and other members of the Window Rock School District. Out of this partnership grew the Navajo Kentuckians, who have exchanged views, vistas, and visits, who came together at a 2013 Food Literacy Conference held at Middlebury College in Vermont, and who together presented their program and its results at the 2014 NCTE conference. In their work together and in their individual schools, these students are learning about nutrition and sustainability, about planting and harvesting, about “good” and “bad” foods, about managing crops and money. They are making a difference in their own choices of food and they are influencing their family and friends, often to change habits of a lifetime. And they are reading and writing in their own notebooks and journals about all they are learning in their “food lit” classes and in their gardens and markets.

What the students say about their experiences is insightful and inspiring. Last spring, the Navajo Kentuckians traveled to Montana for the International Indian Health Service Conference, where they presented their work and listened and learned from others. Here’s what Courtney Jones, a student at Window Rock High School, wrote to participants after the conference:

  You can see photos and listen to students at this conference and at other events on the Navajo Kentuckians website. And check them out on YouTube. I think you will be as inspired as I have been.

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.